May 31, 2013

Endangered species regulation and pretext

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

Pacific Legal Foundation successfully sued the Fish and Wildlife Service last year to force the agency to act on a petition to delist the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle, which has been protected as a threatened species since 1980 but which, since at least 2006, has been deemed to have recovered.  In October of last year, the Service, as a result of PLF’s lawsuit, formally proposed to delist the beetle and invited comment from the public on the proposal.  One of the comments submitted opposing the delisting is surprisingly and refreshingly frank about the role the environmental community has assigned to the Endangered Species Act:

The majority of people could care less if a beetle goes extinct; however, we do care about what the beetle represents.  The beetle represents the natural world that humans are taking over, paving, destroying, and molding into what we perceive to be the ideal world, a cookie-cutter reality with multiple big box stores in every city.  One of California’s greatest assets is its open space, its natural resources, and its opportunity to experience nature in its true form.  People move to California for its beaches and its forests.  People value what California has to offer and developers are destroying what makes California a beautiful place to live.  The proposed rule to delist the [beetle] is a travesty.  Instead of conducting sound science to recover our natural resources, the federal government is caving into political pressures.

In other words, the beetle’s ESA protections are a tool to achieve a land-use aesthetic that cannot be achieved through “political” means.

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